What is considered a contested divorce in Virginia?

Couple Talking About a Contested DivorceIf you want to get divorced in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, it is essential to understand your options and know the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce. An experienced family law attorney can help you decide the best choice for your circumstances.

Differences Between a Contested and Non-Contested Divorce in Virginia

An uncontested divorce can be filed when both spouses agree on all the issues related to the divorce, including property division, child custody, child support, and alimony. They must file a contested divorce if they cannot agree on one or more issues, and a judge must resolve the disputes.

To obtain a no-fault divorce in Virginia, a couple must have a written and signed separation agreement and be separated for at least six months (or one year if they have children). Both parties must agree to the divorce and all issues, or the court will not grant a no-fault divorce.

Grounds for a Contested Divorce in Virginia

If both parties cannot agree on getting divorced or all the issues that must be decided on, the divorce is considered contested. One party must establish fault to obtain a divorce. Here are the grounds that must be established in Virginia.


Adultery happens when one spouse engages in a sexual relationship outside the marriage. The spouse claiming adultery must provide clear and convincing evidence of the affair.

Desertion or Abandonment

Desertion can be grounds for divorce if a spouse leaves the marriage and has no intention of returning. The abandonment can involve the spouse leaving the marital home or can be established if they constructively desert the marriage. To establish desertion, the spouse claiming desertion must prove that the other spouse has been absent for a year or more with no intent to return.

Criminal Conviction

A criminal conviction is also a fault-based ground for divorce in Virginia. If one spouse is convicted of a felony and is sentenced to more than one year in prison, their partner may file for divorce.


Cruelty is another ground for divorce in our state. To establish cruelty, a spouse must prove that the other spouse has been physically or mentally abusive and that they are in danger of bodily harm.